Taking Stock of 2022
20 December 2022
As 2022 draws to a close, it is once again time to reflect on the achievements and lessons of the past year as we dare to look to the future with optimism and hope.
Before the year was over, we received another vivid—and perhaps symbolic—reminder of nature’s overwhelming power when the world’s largest active volcano turned on a violent display of fireworks at the very same location where irrefutable evidence of climate change has been collected for more than 60 years.
While the eruption of Mauna Loa in Hawaii last month came as no surprise, it still managed to disrupt key measurements of greenhouse gasses at the iconic observatory where scientists have been tracking the relentless increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since 1958.
Maintaining an uninterrupted record of these natural trends over time is absolutely vital, but it is equally important to take stock of our efforts to adapt to the downstream effects of climate change. Violent natural phenomena are seen on a daily basis in the droughts, floods, heatwaves, land degradation and plant diseases that threaten the world’s food supply and put hundreds of millions of lives at risk.
Our response must match the urgency of the threat and be measured just as assiduously as that threat.
Solutions of Tomorrow
Crop diversity offers a lasting, sustainable solution to the hunger and famine that are among the most brutal by-products of climate change. We need to step up global conservation efforts, ensure that the world’s genebanks have adequate funding, and safeguard the seeds that will allow us to breed and grow tomorrow’s crops—including fruits, vegetables, grains and tubers.
This means saving, duplicating and conserving the genetic diversity that is found both in farmers’ fields and in the wild before it is lost forever. Only if we succeed in this endeavour can we continue to develop new plant varieties that are resilient to the extreme conditions, and new pests and diseases, that will be prevalent under climate change.
In my third year as executive director of the Crop Trust, we continued to play a leading role in pursuit of these goals and to forge a path toward a more sustainable future.
For the first time ever, the Crop Trust participated in a UN Climate Change Conference. At the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, I delivered a statement during a high-level segment to help put food security and agriculture on the climate agenda. This special focus at the event culminated in the launch of a new initiative aimed at raising finance to transform agriculture by 2030.
In 2022, the Crop Trust concluded its Global Crop Conservation Strategies project, which started in 2019 with the support of the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). The Crop Trust and its partners updated five existing strategies—for potato, yams, vigna, millets and sorghum—and developed 10 new ones—for brassicas, citrus, cucurbits, eggplant, groundnut, pea, peppers, sunflower, temperate forages and vanilla. These provide roadmaps for conserving the diversity of crops that provide nutrition and livelihoods to millions, and will hopefully be able to do so for future generations too.
The BOLD Project
As part of the Biodiversity for Opportunities, Livelihoods and Development (BOLD) Project, which is funded by the government of Norway and led by the Crop Trust, we completed the review process of 15 national genebanks. We also signed agreements with partner organizations to develop climate-smart varieties of seven key crops through pre-breeding: rice, alfalfa, potato, finger millet, durum wheat, barley and grasspea.
The 10-year BOLD Project, which began last year, also responded to ongoing tensions in the global food supply due to the war in Ukraine, rising prices and climate change, supporting organizations that protect the diversity of food crops and their wild relatives by helping them secure seeds in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
During 2022, we opened the doors of the Seed Vault—the ultimate backup facility for the world’s crop diversity—on three occasions, and welcomed new depositors from national genebanks in Iraq, Lithuania, Spain and Uruguay. The increasing number of countries in the Seed Vault family bodes well for the global drive to conserve the genetic diversity that farmers depend on to continue growing our food.
New face, same mission
We were delighted to launch our new brand, which included a new logo, website, and news hub – the Crop Diversity Digest –, and a new newsletter. Our newsletter also has a new look and a new name – the Crop Trust Dish – and we encourage you to sign up – along with all your friends and family.
The Year Ahead
Looking forward to the coming year, 2023 marks the International Year of Millets, which was launched this month at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This is a golden opportunity to raise the profile of these highly nutritious cereals, which can be cultivated in the harshest climatic conditions.
The Crop Trust will support our partner the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in its efforts to conserve its invaluable collection of millets in perpetuity and to promote this food of the future with the help of ICRISAT’s offices in India and eight African nations.
We hope 2023 will be a year of unprecedented progress, and not just for millets -- with increased cooperation, greater climate commitments and tangible progress in dealing with the food security crisis.
I thank you for your continuing support and wish you all a happy and healthy end to the year as well as a prosperous start to 2023.
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The opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Crop Trust. The Crop Trust is committed to publishing a diversity of opinions on crop diversity conservation and use.
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